Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  An Evening Revery

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Evening Revery

By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

[From Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant. Edited by Parke Godwin. 1883.]

THE SUMMER day is closed—the sun is set:

Well they have done their office, those bright hours,

The latest of whose train goes softly out

In the red west. The green blade of the ground

Has risen, and herds have cropped it; the young twig

Has spread its plaited tissues to the sun;

Flowers of the garden and the waste have blown

And withered; seeds have fallen upon the soil,

From bursting cells, and in their graves await

Their resurrection. Insects from the pools

Have filled the air awhile with humming wings,

That now are still forever; painted moths

Have wandered the blue sky, and died again;

The mother-bird hath broken for her brood

Their prison shell, or shoved them from the nest,

Plumed for their earliest flight. In bright alcoves,

In woodland cottages with barky walls,

In noisome cells of the tumultuous town,

Mothers have clasped with joy the new-born babe.

Graves by the lonely forest, by the shore

Of rivers and of ocean, by the ways

Of the thronged city, have been hollowed out

And filled, and closed. This day hath parted friends

That ne’er before were parted; it hath knit

New friendships; it hath seen the maiden plight

Her faith, and trust her peace to him who long

Had wooed; and it hath heard, from lips which late

Were eloquent of love, the first harsh word,

That told the wedded one her peace was flown.

Farewell to the sweet sunshine! One glad day

Is added now to Childhood’s merry days,

And one calm day to those of quiet Age.

Still the fleet hours run on; and as I lean,

Amid the thickening darkness, lamps are lit,

By those who watch the dead, and those who twine

Flowers for the bride. The mother from the eyes

Of her sick infant shades the painful light,

And sadly listens to his quick-drawn breath.

O thou great Movement of the Universe,

Or Change, or Flight of Time—for ye are one!

That bearest, silently, this visible scene

Into night’s shadow and the streaming rays

Of starlight, whither art thou bearing me?

I feel the mighty current sweep me on,

Yet know not whither. Man foretells afar

The courses of the stars; the very hour

He knows when they shall darken or grow bright;

Yet doth the eclipse of Sorrow and of Death

Come unforewarned. Who next, of those I love,

Shall pass from life, or, sadder yet, shall fall

From virtue? Strife with foes, or bitterer strife

With friends, or shame and general scorn of men—

Which who can bear?—or the fierce rack of pain—

Lie they within my path? Or shall the years

Push me, with soft and inoffensive pace,

Into the stilly twilight of my age?

Or do the portals of another life

Even now, while I am glorying in my strength,

Impend around me? Oh! beyond that bourne,

In the vast cycle of being which begins

At that dread threshold, with what fairer forms

Shall the great law of change and progress clothe

Its workings? Gently—so have good men taught—

Gently, and without grief, the old shall glide

Into the new; the eternal flow of things,

Like a bright river of the fields of heaven,

Shall journey onward in perpetual peace.